The Mourning Dove!
James Smith, 1864
"I mourned as a dove!" Isaiah 38:14
So said Hezekiah, referring to his sickness and expected death. He felt sad. He was very sorrowful.
Just so, many of the Lord's people are now, when suddenly laid low by disease, and death appears immediately before them. They did not expect to be called away from the employments and enjoyments of the present world so soon. Therefore they are sad. They do not vividly realize either their interest in Jesus, or the glories of the invisible world — and therefore they are sorrowful. Doubts spring up in their minds. Gloomy fears rise in their hearts. Satan hurls his fiery darts at them. The special comforts of the Holy Spirit are withheld. They look into themselves, or back upon their past lives — instead of looking simply to Jesus — and therefore they are cast down.
Their days appear to be numbered, their plans are frustrated, and their purposes are broken off — and they mournfully say, "I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living." Their spirits sink, their prospects are dark, and they go mourning all the nay long. They mourn like doves.
The dove has a social nature. So has the Christian. He is formed for society — yet not for any society. For as the dove will not associate with the raven, the vulture, or the crow — so the Lord's doves cannot feel at home, or enjoy the society of the Lord's enemies. Sinners are at home with sinners — but saints are only at home with saints. The dove only enjoys the company of the dove — and the believer only enjoys the fellowship of believers. He prays, "Gather not my soul with sinners — but let me be numbered among your chosen."
The attachment of the dove to its mate is strong and permanent. Just so, the true Christian is strongly attached to Christ. No substitute for Jesus can be found. True, he sometimes questions his own love, and wonders about his Lord's love to him; but this only proves that his attachment is sincere. He mourns for him — when he does not enjoy him, and is willing to resign anything and everything for him. Union to Christ, and communion with Christ, are the greatest blessings in his estimation, and in the darkest season he sighs out in secret, "Oh, to be one with Christ! Oh, to enjoy close and hallowed fellowship with Jesus."
No substitute for Christ can be found, in his estimation. No other object is worthy of his highest love. To be alone with Christ, is his choicest happiness; and if Jesus is sensibly present, the absence of others is not painfully felt.
The dove is of a plaintive spirit, and so is the true believer. In company he often appears joyous and full of life, he is even perhaps bold and daring; but when alone in secret, there is a plaintiveness about him. How plaintive sometimes are his praises! How plaintive often are his prayers! Gethsemane or Calvary will draw out this peculiarity of his nature — for there, in the most joyous seasons, in the most prosperous times — he will mourn over a wounded, bleeding, dying Savior; even as one who mourns in bitterness for his first-born son. There is often a soft, a sad plaintiveness in his meditations, prayers, and private devotions, and he often feels a strange pleasure therein.
The dove is a mournful bird — and the Christian is a mournful man. He mourns sometimes because of the loss of his Lord's presence. He cannot realize nearness to Jesus. His Lord is not sensibly present with him, either in public ordinances or in private devotions — and this makes him sad. His heart is set upon his Savior — and his Heaven is only found in the enjoyment of his Savior's love. Oh, how dull the service to him — if Jesus is not there. Inwardly and silently does his spirit mourn; and mournfully does he pray, plead, and entreat his beloved Lord to reveal himself once more. The sermon may be good, the hymns spiritual, the devotions fervent, the brethren kind — but if Jesus is not there, or is not enjoyed, there is no satisfaction; the soul goes away mourning.
Just so in private, however lively the gift of praver, however still the enemy of souls, however favorable the opportunity — if Jesus is not enjoyed, there is mourning. The performance of duty, will not do. Occupying the usual time in the usual place, is not enough. The dove wants its mate, or its mournful cooing shows its dissatisfaction. Just so, the Christian must enjoy the presence of Jesus, or he will mourn in silence.
He often mourns and longs for the return of his dear Redeemer from the skies. The advent of Christ is to him, the blessed hope. The coming of Jesus, is the object of his ardent desire. He plaintively strains like the lonely dove; he sits and sighs, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!" Thus he is looking for, and hastening to, the coming of the day of God.
He mourns also over the condition of his fellow-men. When they sin — he sighs. He is numbered among those who sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the land. Sin is the object of his hatred — but the sinner is the object of his pity. He often wonders that he can be as cheerful as he is, when he realizes that he is surrounded by those who spend their time and talents in insulting his God and Savior; and who, though his brethren according to the flesh, are rushing headlong to Hell by thousands! "Oh," he says, "that my head were waters, and my eyes fountains of tears — that I might weep day and night for the dishonor they do to my Lord — and the destruction which they are bringing upon themselves." He knows the value of the soul, he knows something of the terrors of the Lord — and therefore he mourns to see thousands so infatuated by sin, as to choose death in the error of their ways.
If God has converted us by his grace, set our hearts against sin, and given us to know the misery and torment from which we are delivered — we shall heartily mourn over those who appear determined to perish, and be willing to do anything we can, to rescue them from so dreadful a doom!
But perhaps there is nothing that makes them mourn so frequently, or so much, as their lack of conformity to Jesus. They all want to be exactly like him, and every fresh discovery they have of their unlikeness to him, causes them to mourn, sigh, and pray, "Lord Jesus, make me like your blessed self!" They would be as holy as he was holy. They would be as useful as he was useful. They want to have the same mind in them — which was also in Christ Jesus. They wish to be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners — and because they are not, they mourn like a dove!
Reader, are you one of the Lord's mourning doves? Do you mourn over sin, after Jesus, and to be sanctified wholly, in body, soul, and spirit? If so, "Blessed are you who mourn now — for you shall be comforted." But if you enjoy the world, are happy in unholiness, or laugh at sin, "Woe unto you who laugh now — for you shall mourn and weep!"
Those who mourn on earth — will rejoice and sing in
Heaven. Those who mourn now, because Jesus is away — will shout for joy when
he shall come again the second time without sin unto salvation. Happy
mourners, you sow in tears — but you shall reap in joy. You have a wet
and difficult seed time — but you shall have a sunny harvest. The causes of
the mourning will soon be all removed, and then you will rejoice and be
exceeding glad forever! Your Savior is coming . . .
to silence your groans,
to comfort your hearts, and
to receive you to himself forever!
He himself once groaned on earth, he mourned over the condition of our guilty world, he wept as he anticipated his murderers' doom; but perfect joy has long been his portion, and it will be yours soon.
But oh, sinner, sinner, if you go on in sin, if you persist in your present course — you will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, forever! You will mourn at last, and repent your folly forever. But, like foolish Esau, you will repent too late, for you will find it impossible to change the mind of the Most High God, though you seek it with tears. For as you now read unmoved the sufferings of his beloved Son, as you are now unaffected by the sweet messages and loving invitations of his mercy — so he will forever view unmoved — your torments and tears, and turn a deaf ear to your prayers and groans! Turn, then, turn unto the Lord now, with weeping, mourning, and supplication; for the Lord still waits, that he may be gracious unto sinners; and the Lord is exalted, that he may show mercy unto repentant sinners.